MANILA, Philippines—A lawyers’ group on Thursday scored the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for putting on its blacklist Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum, who was deported from the country on Wednesday for overstaying and participating in a political rally.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), which gave Beersum legal aid during his 30-hour detention at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, said the act was tantamount to the stifling of foreign criticism by the government of the Philippines, which is supposed to be a democratic country.
“In this cyber age, blacklisting is obviously a primitive and artificial tool to sweep under the rug any ideas, expressions or statements from the outside world that a sitting government would refuse to face or address squarely,” NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Olalia said “there is no doubt our client’s resolve to speak out and continue to be in solidarity with the legitimate struggles and plight of peoples beyond the comfort of his own country should move this government to ponder and cease from being in denial.”
“His blacklisting is more a resounding indictment of the government and its claims to democracy than it is of his zealous yet moral outrage over issues that should make us and our society more fair and human,” he added.
Beersum, 20, was caught on camera confronting an antiriot policeman during the rally organized by militant groups while President Aquino was delivering his State of the Nation Address before Congress on July 22.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement, also said the deportation of Beersum violated the guarantees of free expression and peaceful assembly to which foreign visitors as well as Philippine citizens here and abroad were entitled under international law.
“[The deportation] undermines Aquino’s claims that his administration respects human rights and values civil liberties,” HRW Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said. “While [this] administration seems to have time to chase foreigners protesting rights violations, it has fallen far short of its rhetoric to end impunity for serious abuses.”
Conde said the Philippine government should revoke the blacklisting of Beersum and correct the BI’s warning that foreigners should not join peaceful protest actions.
“Instead of harassing those who decry the continued violations of human rights, Aquino should welcome them,” he said.